Gribbs, Roman

Mayor of Detroit

Roman Gribbs

Roman Gribbs was born in Detroit on December 29, 1925 and was raised on a farm near Capac, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Detroit in 1952 with a degree in economics and accounting, and received a law degree from the same institution in 1954. Mr. Gribbs was an instructor at the university from 1955 through 1957, and became an assistant prosecutor in 1957, a position he held until 1964. He entered private practice in 1964, and ran for a seat as a Recorder’s Court judge in 1966, but lost.

In 1968, Gribbs was appointed sheriff of Wayne County, later winning a full four-year term. However, in 1969 he was elected mayor of Detroit, defeating opponent Richard H. Austin who later became Michigan Secretary of State. Rather than residing in the Manoogian Mansion, official residence of the mayor of Detroit, Gribbs maintained residence in Rosedale Park Historic District. In 1973, Gribbs declined to seek re-election and was replaced by Coleman Young who was elected Detroit’s first African-American mayor in November of that year.

Interviewed by Bill Ballenger
83 minutes, July 22, 2008